The first Communist President of the National Union of Students.
Jack Turner Allanson was born on December 30th 1919, near to Bury. Having won a scholarship to Bury Grammar School, this brought burdens to his family since his father was unemployed as a consequence of his trade union activities. This made it necessary for Jack to work in a factory on leaving school but he later received a small grant to read electrical engineering at Manchester University. His preference was to read history, but his father insisted on the safe career that engineering seemed to guarantee.
The Communist Party had already made an input into Jack’s education and he became the first Communist President of the National Union of Students – he led its pre-D-Day campaign for a second front in Europe. Jack’s first job was work on the pipeline under the ocean (Pluto) which supplied fuel to the invasion forces.
Post-war, he had difficulty keeping qualified employment because as a Communist and an engineer he was considered a security risk. Having established himself as head of the electrical section of a Greenwich firm making power and radio cables, he lost that job also after the 3rd Baron Colgrain, a non-executive Director of the company was tipped off by the Daily Express, via MI5.
In 1949 he was appointed an electrical engineering lecturer at Birmingham University and set about improving the undergraduate course.
He left the Party in the 1950s and in 1959 became professor and head of the undergraduate school in Birmingham. For a quarter of a century he was a dominating figure on the Joint Matriculation Board. He chaired the Research Advisory Committee, served on the Schools Council, the Secondary Examinations Council, and the Standing Conference on University Entrance.
Allanson died on July 7th 1999, aged aged 79.
Sources include: Daily Express 1st March 1949, Guardian 22nd July 1999
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